Brooklyn-Queens Express-PAY! Levin to Cuomo: Cough up cash for repairs

Brooklyn-Queens Express-PAY! Levin to Cuomo: Cough up cash for repairs
Photo by Nicole Lewis

It is a triple threat!

Gov. Cuomo must kick in cash to pay for long-overdue repairs to a geriatric stretch of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway or motorists could end up paying with their lives, says Councilman Steve Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights).

It will cost around $1.7-billion to mend the triple-cantilever portion of the highway below the Brooklyn Heights Promenade — which is already more than 10 years past its expected lifespan — and Levin is demanding the state foot some of the bill so the city isn’t left scrambling for cash while the whole thing folds like a cheap suit.

“In order to do this project quickly and without any strain on the rest of the system we really need the state as a partner here,” he said. “It could be a public safety issue. We don’t want any of the roadway becoming impassable and becoming faulty.”

City Department of Transportation officials announced last month that they will finally start defusing the ticking time bomb in five or six years, with an expected completion date of 2026 — and not a moment too soon, according to experts on such things.

The roadway was built in 1949 and was intended to last just 40 years. Now the concrete holding up the artery — which carries more than 140,000 cars and trucks between Old Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue every day — is crumbling, exposing the steel underneath to corrosion, and in turn weakening the entire structure, revered transportation engineer “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz told this paper.

The city is technically responsible for maintaining the tri-level thoroughfare, even though rest of the expressway is state-controlled.

But Albany has traditionally kicked in 38 percent of the funding for highway projects, according to a spokeswoman for the city agency — though its generosity has waned in recent years.

Under that model, the state Department of Transportation would provide $659 million to the total cost of the revamp. But the agency is yet to pledge a single cent, so the city is depending on cash from its own budget along with an unspecified amount of federal funds.

State transportation honchos thought the repairs were important enough to pay for in the past, though — they were planning to do the job themselves in 2011 but abruptly pulled the plug along with the Feds, declaring the entire thing too expensive.

Levin — who drives on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway almost every day and sometimes rescues bullet-ridden cats along the way — says he’s confident the city will find the funds one way or another, but it shouldn’t have to.

Dough from the state would ensure the whole thing runs quickly and smoothly and the city isn’t forced to pinch pennies on other projects, he said.

“It should not fall entirely on the city’s shoulders,” he said. “The city has other vital transportation needs so this is going to come out of those.”

The state Department of Transportation did not respond to requests for comment.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
On the edge: The notorious triple cantilever.
The Brooklyn Paper / Evan Gardner